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Preparing to Launch a Passionate Project | MIT News

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At the start of the 6th annual MITdesignX “pitch day,” program faculty director Svafa Grönfeldt noted that many of the teams trying to showcase their ventures changed project direction several times. did.

“There are people who have pivoted countless times,” said Grönfeldt in his welcome remarks. “This is a great idea, because you have the courage to really question whether your ideas are correct. increase.”

MITdesignX is a venture accelerator based in the School of Architecture and Planning, an interdisciplinary academic program operating at the intersection of design, business and technology. The startup’s starting point is focused on applying design to address complex problems and discovering high-impact solutions to address key challenges facing the future of design, cities, and the global environment. I’m putting The program reflects a new approach to entrepreneurial education, drawing on business theory, design thinking, and entrepreneurial practice.

At this year’s event, 11 teams pitched their ideas in front of a panel of three judges, an on-site audience and hundreds of viewers watching the livestream event.

“These teams have worked hard on solutions,” said Gilad Rosenzweig, executive director of MITdesignX. I have.”

Resolving urgent issues

Problems the team has addressed include lack of adequate housing, endangered food supplies, toxic pollution, and threats to democracy. Many of the students were inspired to launch ventures because of problems they encountered in their careers or concerns about the impact on their home country. His 25-man team his members in this year’s cohort represent work on five continents.

“We are proud of our international representation because we want our influence to be felt outside of Cambridge,” Rosenzweig said. I am thinking.”

John Devine, a JD/Master of Urban Planning (MCP) candidate in the Department of Urban Planning, has created a new software platform, Civic Atlas. In his pitch, he said that having spent his ten years in urban planning in Texas before coming to MIT, he knew how difficult it was for communities to navigate and understand the dense jargon of city council agendas. explained. Zoning cases, bond projects, and investments in transportation are just a few of the key projects impacting communities. Devine has seen many cases where poor communication resulted in decisions being made without the knowledge of the community.

“If the community doesn’t have access to clear, accessible information, it will perform poorly,” Devine told the audience. “We realized the solution to this was to create accessible and inclusive digital experiences that truly foster communication between planners, developers and community members.”

Seizing the opportunity, Devine taught himself how to code and built a fully automated web tool for the City of Dallas Planning Commission. The tool checks the city’s website daily and transforms the document into an interactive map for residents to view the community’s plans. Devine began development in Dallas, but says she has more than 800 cities across the country with populations of over 50,000, indicating an excellent target market for the product.

“I think the city has a lot to gain from working with us, like building trust and communicating with voters, which is essential for the functioning of City Hall,” says Devine.

Cohort next steps

The judge for this year’s event is Yscaira Jimenez, Founder of LaborX. This is Magnus Ingi Oskarsson of Eyrir Venture Management in Reykjavik, Iceland. And Frank Pawlitschek, director of the HPI School of Entrepreneurship in Potsdam, Germany, identifies the best teams based on his three criteria: most innovative, most impactful, and best presentation. I held a deliberation to do so. The competition was so fierce that the jury decided to award her two honorable mentions. This year’s winners are:

  • Atacama, which is developing a biomaterial to replace plastic, received the “Most Innovative” award and $5,000. The company accelerates the adoption of renewable and sustainable materials through machine learning and robotics to ensure performance, cost effectiveness and environmental impact. Its founders are Paloma Gonzalez-Rojas PhD ’21, Jose Tomas Dominguez and Jose Antonio Gonzalez.
  • Grain Box, a startup focused on optimizing post-harvest supply chains for smallholder farmers in rural India, won the ‘Greatest Impact’ and $5,000 prize. Its founders are Mona Vijaykumar SMArchS ’22 and TR (Radha) Radhakrishnan.
  • Lamarr.AI, which offers an autonomous solution for rapidly diagnosing building envelopes using AI and cloud computing, was recognized as “Best Presentation” and awarded $2,500. Its founders are Norhan Bayomi PhD ’22, Dr. Tarek Rakha (PhD ’15), and John E. Fernandez ’85 (Professor and Director of the MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative).
  • Special Award: “News Detective,” a platform for combating misinformation on social media, combining moderated professional fact-checking with AI, created by up-and-coming Ilana Strauss.
  • Honorable mention: Digitizing building services to reach families building their own homes in Latin America, “La Firme” was created by Mora Orensanz MCP ’21, Fiorella Belli Ferro MCP ’21 and up-and-coming senior Raul Briceno Brignole. I was.

Following the awards ceremony, Rosenzweig told students that the process wasn’t over yet. That’s because the MITdesignX faculty and staff are always available to continue to guide and support their journey as they launch and grow their ventures.

“You will be an MITdesignX graduate,” he said. “You will be joining and influencing more than 50 teams operating around the world. They are recognized leaders in innovation. This is your next step.”